Over the past seven years, I have worked with more than one hundred companies and have met with thousands of others. I’ve seen almost everything, and I’m now seeing that too many start-ups all over the world are chasing money blindly and ignoring traditional best-practices. They all think that they are one PR campaign away from getting funded.
They’re correct that public relations plays a major role in obtaining investment as well as in getting more downloads, users, and customers. In fact, PR is back as the “king.” (For all of you “social media marketers”: I’m sorry to tell you this, but social media is only a part of PR– PR a part of marketing, and marketing a part of the overall business process.)
However, there is a right time and a wrong time to do PR. Here are ten times when your company should not hire a PR firm (or do public relations yourselves):
1. When you do not have a finalized product. Save your marketing budget and make sure the product’s features are complete first.
2. When you have not tested your product for bugs. Imagine your newly-launched product failing three times with one of the biggest tech reporters in the country. This has happened in the past to well-funded companies. How do you expect coverage when the product malfunctions?
3. When you do not yet understand your market, your competition, or how to sell.You may think that no one else is doing what you’re doing – but there is always competition.
4. When you do not have customers who will speak to the press. How will reporters write a story if they have no one objective to talk to? If you’re a B2C or B2B2C company, journalists will care only about your customers. So, if you have no customer stories or case studies, there will be no articles.
5.When you do not know why you exist and why anyone would care about your company. It is crucial to be newsworthy. How will your business and product change peoples’ lives?
6. When your product fails during a major installation with a large company. If your product is malfunctioning when you try to integrate it with a large enterprise, stop all press and fix the product immediately. You may only get one chance.
7. When you have not finalized your launch. A poor launch will doom your company. Do not chase after coverage until every single detail of the launch is prepared and finalized. Too many companies jump out of the gate too soon in their attempts to get funding. Public relations agencies can assist with the launch, but it is always important to finalize the event before doing other activities.
8. When you have not strategized your positioning and messaging. Before you talk to the press, you need to think about what you will tell them. In addition, your CEO should already be using those materials in part to start to become a thought leader. PR companies can help you to devise your positioning and messaging, but no one should approach the media without doing this first.
9. When you have no news, updates, or traction with customers. PR cannot occur in a vacuum. You need something to say.
10. When you are not incorporating a holistic approach to marketing. It is crucial that your messages will be spread through the right channels to the right audience.
The chase for cash is causing companies to jump into PR too soon for either the brand as a whole or the launch of a new product specifically. This ultimately leads to poor decisions and deadly mistakes. The traditional business processes of product-checking and benchmark-creation, among others, are being ignored as startup executives are operating with only dollar signs in their heads; they are trying to be successful before they are readyto be successful.
Success will come only from having the company and product in order before doing public relations. A good company, a good product, and a good leader will get funding – and the right PR at the right time will accelerate the process.